Arlington Cemetery….and the trials of 3 Boys!

Had she lived another few months, Gammie Cole would have been 98 years old.Gammie Cole The boys knew her as a woman confined to a wheelchair who watched their every move as they zoomed through their grandparents’ house. She smiled at them most of the time and occasionally growled in their general direction if they misbehaved. But they never had the pleasure of really knowing their great-grandmother and her wonderful love and graciousness to the world.

She passed away quietly about 18 months ago. In her typical sacrificial nature, she donated her body “to science” and her ashes were recently returned to the family. In a short ceremony on Friday, she was interred beside her husband of over 50 years in Arlington Cemetery. I was physically there …with 3 bouncy and grumpy boys…..but I was not mentally there….due to 3 bouncy and grumpy boys. I regret not being able to be mindful of the ceremony and the memory of my grandmother….due to 3 bouncy and grumpy boys.

It wasn’t really their fault. I mean, they had just spent 5 hours in a car and then were DC-2forced into “nice” shirts (hey, I caved and let them stay in shorts!) and then expected to…. Hey, get that Batman off the tombstone! Stop jumping over tombstones! Don’t throw “coconuts” (aka acorns) at the tombstones!

I was stressed. I fell into the trap of worrying what the twelve 70-some year-olds who were former Girl Scouts in my grandmother’s troop would think of these Out-Of-Control Boys….so I tried to control them. And when boys sense that you are about to swipe some of their “control” – they scowl, they run, they push one another onto the gravel, they throw rocks and other “natural” projectiles, they pull up grass….they become OOC Boys!DC-1

Now, let’s just say that the plan then is to take these OOC boys to a buffet for dinner? I mean, why not? It’s better than a sit-down served dinner….And if that’s not bad enough, and my inability to maintain my own sense of control is not glaringly obvious, then let’s head to the hotel and “go to bed”…..or jump on the beds, wrestle in the sheets, throw pillows at each other, turn lights on and off, open the door and scream down the hall….

So when it’s 8 pm and Mr. Ornery has been in “time-out” in the bathroom for over an hour (and has decided to cut his lower lip with my razor….for the second time – first time was at the beach vacation….”Mommy, I’m bleeding”), and the Little Guy is climbing in and out of the port-a-crib and egging on Super Tall Guy who is doing back-flips on the bed….I’m texting my sister in the room across the hall saying “I hate this,” “I want to go home.”  But I rest for a few minutes until they bounce OOC into a peaceful sleep, while I dream of a cold beer, then grab my cousin to walk to the local pharmacy to pick up a pint of New York Super Fudge Chunk….and we survive the night.

Needing a better plan, we decided to completely wipe them out the next day. We took the metro to the Mall and visited the Air & Space Museum. We stopped by the National Book Festival where DC-3Kathy and her boys actually did “literary” type things while my boys and I wound up and flew rubber-band birds over and over again in the grass. And then we walked them to the Washington Monument, up past the White House and back to the metro. While waiting for the hotel shuttle, we gloriously let them splash in the deluge of rain dripping from the metro station roof. Soaking wet and happy, they inhaled a delivered pizza for “picnic and movie night” and by 7:30 they were snoring! Love it.  Now that’s how you handle OOC Boys!

Yet I replay the rough OOC day in my head over and over wondering if this “wild-ness” is just a function of their bouncy active nature …..or am I too lenient and need to do a better job at helping them “control” themselves more. Super Tall Guy has lately been very adamant that he is the boss of himself and not me, though I repetitively remind him that if he can’t handle himself, I have to step in (and that’s never a pretty sight when it’s 80 pounds to my 120!). It’s that parenting line that doesn’t have a clear answer. Am I respecting their needs and creativity and expression or am I raising misbehaving out-of-control children?

I sit here thinking about how I can “teach” them to handle themselves in certain situations, like how to behave at a restaurant. And my first thought was – gosh, that sounds like a miserable time! My second thought was – see, there’s some of that responsibility part of parenting that I posted about last week. …which, by the way, tends to coincide with the “exhausting” part of parenting. And since I have exhausted myself just by thinking about all of this tonight…I shall wrap this post upDC-4 (I’m already a day late since our cable/internet/phone box blew last night and I couldn’t do anything but get to bed early – how sad).

Tomorrow is another day to figure out how to get OOC Boys into little “slaves” as Super Tall Guy complained tonight that he was….the poor dear.

The Guardians

It was one of those weeks. One that you just want to survive. One in which you know that you have your schedule so tight that one false move is going to throw the whole balance off. So accepting the cold virus from one of the boys (nice to have 5 of them to blame) was not in the plan.

Neither, as I explained to some friends, was the fact that my “husband” left town for the week. Yes, our saving grace grandmother decided to accept the offer to go be grandmaBus stop 2 to 7 of her other grandchildren in Ohio for the week. This is all well and good – and I was happy for her and applauded her desire and energy to homeschool and cook for so many little ones…..and we did survive with the help of some friends (including one who had the pleasure of getting first-graders off the bus at the bus stop!)…

It was one of those weeks….by the end of which I am trying to tell myself to stop reacting so intensely to the screams and whistles at the dining room table, to be more patient in buckling the Little Guy into his car seat when he finds it more entertaining to swing from the ceiling handle, to give Super Tall Boy a bit more “lovings” when he’s injured than I feel like doing at the moment.

It was one of those weeks ….by the end of which I was content to have “movie night” and found a tear escaping my eye at the end of “Rise of the Guardians” that Super Tall Boy had been clamoring to watch (but ended up in too much time-out/grounding last weekend). I was touched by the reminder within the movie of our responsibility to be guardians for our children.rise-of-the-guardians-pstr-10

Santa – the guardian of wonder – to look at the world through their eyes of curiosity and amazement. To stop and catch a moth and feel its tickle in the palm of your hand. To look for the moon and wonder if it is made out of cheese. To plant some cacti in the tiniest of terrariums and eagerly check each day to see if they have sprouted. Wonder, through the eyes of my boys.

Easter Bunny – the guardian of hope – to look forward to soccer mornings on Saturday (despite the cold blustery wind), to ask me for a third cookie and hope to see a smile and a twinkle of the eyes in a head nodding yes.

The Sandman – the guardian of dreams – the dream to “grow up and be a car wash man, Mom” (is the dream of today and one which I’m hoping will be changing over time), the dream of being able to get a cell phone “when I’m ten, Mom.”

Tooth Fairy – the guardian of memories – which are delightfully enjoyed in animated retellings and amazingly accurate sometimes when I don’t even remember events.

And Jack Frost – the star of the show and the guardian of fun – enjoying each other in playing catch, running laps through the house to jump over a rubber band jump rope,paper boats folding paper boats and watching them float down the mini-rapids of the nearby stream.

The innocence of childhood. The wonder of childhood. The joy, the magic and the fun. We the parents are the guardians of our children. We are the ones that keep them safe and provide them space to dream, to explore, to grow. We hold their hope when it seems to be lost. We watch over them and protect them from fear. A noble, terrifying, exhausting and honorable role. This morning Super Tall Boy reminded me as we walked into church that I am not his boss – that God is the boss. And I had to smile and replied, “You are right. God is the boss….

And He has made me a Guardian.”


This “Great Mom” is trying to teach R.E.S.P.E.C.T

I am in a constant state of over-stimulation – though, this really isn’t news to anyone who knows me. In my life, there is constant noise barraging my eardrum…..constant motion within my peripheral vision…and constant threat of bodily harm….as 5 little breathing, screaming, flailing bodies whiz throughout the house exemplifying chaos theory in action.

And I am an introvert, making my life overwhelming and basically exhausting.

Tuesday morning, I stood at the bus stop with two bouncy boys feeling so happy to be saying goodbye to them….even though I was heading straight to work. I turned to the mother beside me and asked how their holiday weekend had been. She replied that they had a nice day just “chilling at home.” I paused and considered how delightful that word sounded….”chilling”…. Then I laughed and told her, “we never chill at home. If we stay in the house, the 5 boys eventually start to kill each other. There’s no chilling. We must get out of the house at all costs!”

tired Nate

A very tired Mr. Ornery

It’s a constant balancing act in the kids’ need for stimulation and my need to decrease the stimulation. I realized that it’s something almost always on my mind in terms of how much stimulation each of the kids is getting and what level “works” or doesn’t work for them. When Super Tall Guy becomes overstimulated, he falls apart into angry outbursts that usually result in objects soaring through space or a contusion to a brother or mother. I’d love to prevent these, but have trouble anticipating them (though we had 3 of them this past week, which is a record high of late!). Mr. Ornery, as one might expect, becomes even more ornery and devilish when he’s over-stimulated and over-tired. He has a couple times, though, asked questions like, “it’s pretty late, isn’t it?” or “it’s past my bedtime, right?” – to which I respond, “oh my, yes, we better get to bed” – and that seems to be just what he needs. And, The Little Guy…I can’t tell yet what his threshold is…he seems to be able to function in the mania that exists within the house.

Somehow, we must have blown right past Super Tall Guy’s ability to regulate stimulation this week. We had a knock-down 20-min battle on Wednesday and topped it off with 2 of them on Saturday. Thinking myself quite wise…after he tossed his spit at me during the morning rage….I proclaimed his punishment would be to clean the bathroom. As this is a new “skill” for him, it required much supervision and much biting of my tongue and refraining from yelling “just let me do it!!” I thought I had done well with the consequence to misbehavior, until he eagerly asked when he could clean the bathroom again! (don’t worry – I know – this enthusiasm will wane rapidly and scrubbing toilets will eventually become an undesired consequence…).

So, after dealing with two rage episodes yesterday, Super Tall Guy was banned from TV today and grounded from going anywhere (which takes me right back to “how kids punish you” – I try to discipline them….makes my life more difficult!!).  I meditated some this morning about how to help Super Tall Guy work on finding control….and my mind drifted to the fact that he is really not showing respect for me or his siblings. I came up with a little mantra to think about some of the things I’d like my boys to be doing. My vision (of a great mother who puts her foot down) was to call a “Family Meeting” and review this concept…..but in the chaos of the day (Steeler loss despite hours and hours of football throwing practice inside the house, playing outside – in and out, in and out, mopping up watermelon and mopping up watermelon, rubber-band jump-rope and run around the inside track course to jump jump-rope, inside and out, inside and out), we somehow never got to it.

So I plan to work on being a great Mom tomorrow and see how that strategy works. At least my boys let me try a great deal of new techniques!

shark respect


How Kids Punish You


IMG_2059In the adult world, we tend to reciprocate nice things for other people, especially people we love and care about. We think – wow, it was really nice that Jane sent me a letter last week (wish people did that still), I’m going to give her a call. Or my office mate and I who take turns buying lunch each week. Niceness tends to be met with niceness. This is not necessarily (read “rarely”) the case in the parenting world!

For some insane reason (maybe the same one that leads a woman to face labor pains another time), I continue to take my boys to the Great Geauga County Fair year after year. Mind you – the fair is really a great time. There’s pig races to see which of the four swine reach the Oreo cookie first. A fireman battle of water jets pushing a ball across a wire to the opposite side. A big sandbox with hundreds of little green army men and “big” army trucks to play with. There’s fire trucks to climb into, combines and tractors to climb on, firemen to dunk with a thrown softball, and lots and lots of animals to pet and daringly walk past before being hooved in the chest. And of course, the IMG_2043ultimate event at any fair is the eardrum-numbing, motor-revving, dust-kicking, smoke-billowing Demolition Derby. Yes, every youngster’s dream (and adults, too, apparently) – drive as fast as you can to smash into as many cars as you can. Last wreck moving is the winner!

This is all good. But this goodness that mothers endure on behalf of their offspring typically comes at a high price (and I’m not even talking about the cost of food at the fair!). I’m talking about the incredible exacting cost of emotional energy to survive over-stimulated, under-slept, over-sugared, greased out, muddy, potentially disease infected animal petting kids. By 8 pm, my voice was cracking after continuous exposure to dust and smoke and smells….but mostly from repeating similar phrases again and again: “get back here,” “do not run ahead,” “stop touching that,” “don’t put that in your mouth,” “get back here,” “put that down,”  “don’t IMG_1980touch that,” “get back here,” “stop running,” “get down from there.”

I sometimes think that the worst part of the 24-hour experience is trying to get them to settle at night in a new place as I’m spewing out threat after ineffective threat, praying they don’t break the accordion room divider of my friends’ RV or would stop playing with the window, or really – have I never told you not to shine a bright light into your eyes?!? RVs are just so dang fun!

But that’s a momentary punishment when it comes to the 6 hours I must endure the following afternoon with two over-stimulated, under-slept, over-sugared, greased out, now bathed little maniacs. (Yes, it was just two….I wisely decided that The Little Guy would be much happier….I mean, his mother would be much less stressed if he decided to spend the night with his loving grandmother instead of playing in the mud at the fair. He naturally dished out his version of punishment by virtually ignoring me for a bit once we got home just to show his displeasure…and of course, by running to his aunt for a hug instead of me….little bugger!) Mr. Ornery and Super Tall Guy regaled me hours and hours of noise, sibling fighting, squabbling, yelling, and general disobedience as a thank-you gift for the trip.

I stood in the shower this evening (washing off the mud and potentially disease infected animal substances) pondering how these little creatures repay “fun times with mommy” with “torture mommy” until she throws her hands up and practically swears “I’m never going to take you to do anything fun ever again!” (….until the next fun event).

And of course, I know that they are not trying to punish me. They are decompressing from a wonderful weekend, experiencing the disappointment of knowing that high intensity fun is over and “life” returns to normal, dealing with additional siblings in the house, coping with drastic changes to a generally well-aligned schedule, and of course, just being really, really tired.

So, just like the woman who faces labor again having “forgotten” (not really) the pains of last time, I shake off the “pain” of the day, wash away the mud, and prepare eagerly for the next Labor Day weekend. After all, we have more pigs to cheer for, firemen to dunk, ponies to ride and cars to smash. But they better not punish me the next time we do something fun!